6 kinds of love

socratesvalentine’s day tomorrow. let’s talk about love.

but what kind of love?

we’re all familiar with eros – the heady, emotional high of romance, sexual love and infatuation. it makes the world go round; or, more specifically, it twirls the world in a spin.

agape (pron. ah-gah-pay) is another type of love people often talk about. it is unconditional love, the love god is said to have for people, or the brotherly/sisterly love i’ve observed so much among some homeless people: a deep caring for each other. it’s not spinny; it’s grounding.

philia is the love experienced in friendship.

in the book socrates in love: philosophy for a passionate heart, philosopher christopher phillips introduces us to these and more ideas on the rainbow that is our multi-layered, multi-faceted experience of love. here is a summary (with thanks to sarah boyes):

it’s interesting to note that philosophy itself contains the word love – it’s the love (philos) of wisdom (sophia).

phillips is the founder of the non-profit society for philosophical inquiry (which is not ‘anti-academic’ but ’embraces a type of vibrant and relevant philosophy’). an itinerant philosopher, he embraces coffee shop culture and holds ‘socrates cafés’ – a discussion group he sets up wherever he happens to be. similar maybe to our philosopher cafés here in vancouver (but perhaps a bit less pretentious intellectual)?

in his book, phillips discusses eros, storge (familial love), xenia (love of strangers), philia, agape and then ‘socratic love’.

boyes cites as interesting examples phillips’ investigation into

what it is to love a country in a time of political tumult: in a section on castro, phillips tells us, ‘my brother and i, too, have been blinded by ideology. it distorted the passionate idealism for which we risked our lives’

a section on post 9/11 america and hurricane katrina, exploring why we help strangers

the words of an american soldier posted in iraq that throw light on why people risk their lives for their countries

love between friends, sympathetic towards deep-rooted and meaningful relationships …

socratic love: ‘we should continually seek for new ways of being human that lead to greater human beings’.

(sidebar: amusingly, boyes, who doesn’t seem to be entirely convinced of the quality of the book (it looks like the type of ‘everyman’s philosophy’ that phillips espouses isn’t quite her thing) gives no indication that the term ‘socratic love’ used to be a bit of a euphemism for male homosexuality, especially the type of homoeroticism that, in times when it needed to be under cover, occurred under the guise or with the help of studying together.)

so … what do you think? do you think it’s useful to differentiate between different types of love (if you say no, you’re not a student of sanskrit – apparently sanskrit has 96 words for love)?

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